New scheme seeks to place more women in hospitality business boardrooms

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

29 October 2019

It probably won’t surprise Imbibe readers that it can be a steep climb to the top for women in the on-trade. But exactly how many do you think make it onto the boards of UK hospitality companies?

Exact figures are hard to come by, but given that in the FTSE 100 companies (where numbers are available) the figure is around 25%, the answer is almost certainly ‘not enough’. Fortunately, Jackie Moody-McNamara is planning to do something about it.

Managing director of Turn The Key business coaching, Moody-McNamara has just launched Brilliant Women Boardroom aimed specifically at lifting women from senior executive roles to boardrooms across the UK.

Though the programme is open to all businesses, at present most of the focus is on hospitality, since this is Moody-McNamara’s own area of expertise. Before setting up Turn The Key, she spent nearly 30 years working in hospitality, including becoming operations director at Punch Taverns at the age of 32.

'I was single when I got my director role, and I'd been able to focus all my energy on my career,’ she says. ‘It was a pretty classic progression, changing roles every three years.'

Family matters

Two years later, however, she got married and had children, and following a short break found it difficult to get back into hospitality at the level she was expecting. It was an episode that made a big impression on her.

'Although my skill set hadn't changed it was actually very difficult to get back in,’ she says. ‘It's challenging. Most women have to take a pay cut. I don't think that women should have to make a choice of career or family, but a lot of people are having to.’

Supporting women through the ‘young child’ years, so they don’t have to make this ‘either/or’ choice is one of the key aims of her new programme. Another is creating support networks with other businesswomen in senior positions, under the name of Brilliant Women Circles, where women can get together, swap ideas and support and learn from each other.

I don't think that women should have to make a choice of career or family, but a lot of people are having to

Jackie Moody-McNamara

There are quarterly forums, events every six weeks and one-to-one coaching sessions designed to examine inner motivation, as well as understanding what the roles are in a typical boardroom and how they work. Moody-McNamara calls it an ‘inside-out’ strategy.

‘What are your aims and ambitions and where would you like to be?’ she says. ‘Are you ready to go on that journey? My role is to help women think bigger – maybe take more risks and be more ambitious.'

Mutual benefits

Certainly, Moody-McNamara is clear about the advantages of having a more even split in the country’s boardrooms.

‘Men and women are different. They think differently and have different skill sets. The best balance is to have both,’ she says. ‘Men are generally louder and because they talk most they tend to get heard most, so they take over the meetings and it's their ideas that get tabled. The skill for those chairing the meetings is in drawing out all the skill sets that are round the table. 

‘Men are more risk takers, but women are more prepared to play the longer game and be more strategic. So having a balanced board with diversity really helps.’

With psychological insight, support, mentorship and input from those already at the top level of their profession, hopefully the top levels of management in hospitality will be approaching gender parity in the near future.

Jackie Moody-McNamara is speaking at the People and Training Conference, organised by the British Institute of Innkeeping on Tuesday 26 November at Bafta Piccadilly

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